The recent renaissance of nueva tango has yet to acquire an American mainstream figurehead, someone both talented and accessible enough to attract the attention of an audience unfamiliar with the style and tradition of the genre. But with any luck, Silvana Deluigi stands as good a chance as any to fit that bill. Her astonishing U.S. debut album is a rethinking of the tango that recasts the genre into a beast as dark, sexy and subversive as it has ever been.
A lethal blend of French musette, baroque classical, Spanish pop, tango and jazz orchestration along with Argentinean vocalist Deluigi's silky and seductive crooning, Yo! is a beguiling treat, by turns soothing, ominous and erotic. Producer Kip Hanrahan has assembled some fairly disparate elements into a very solid, contiguous work. The swirling cabaret avalanche of "Cuesta Abajo" is strangely comfortable sandwiched between the tantalizing stop-and-start slow dance of "La Cumparsita" and the somnambulant, bass-heavy "Sonamos el Tango"; Deluigi's densely nuanced voice provides a through-line on which to hang any number of different moods and sensations from joy to dread. Indeed, one of the album's stand out tracks, the traditional "A la Una Yo Naci," is a minute and a half of Deluigi plaintively singing without accompaniment.
Alone or in the talented crowd of musicians that play on Yo!, Deluigi proves herself to be a performer capable of amazing restraint and devastating beauty.